Don’t Discount Yourself

Dear self,

I’ve noticed a habit you have, and I want to talk to you about it. It’s not a good habit, or I’d be congratulating you for being awesome. It’s a bad habit, but not one I want to slap your wrist for, because, knowing you, you would just apologize.

And you already apologize too much. (Don’t apologize.)

This habit is similar, because it makes me so sad for you—and it’s such a hard habit to correct, because it comes from a place of genuine modesty and even kindness. It’s a habit many women share, a habit we’ve all developed because we don’t want to overstep ourselves or seem bitchy or whatever it is we’re all trying to avoid.

Have you figured out what it is yet?

It involves a few words and phrases that seem innocent enough. Only. Not really. Just. Well. Words we use to prevaricate, words we writers systematically eliminate from our books because it means we’re not sure what we want to say. But. Sort of. Kind of. Enough. Yet.

Still confused?

It’s the habit of discounting yourself, of evading compliments, of not taking ownership of your accomplishments, however small you may think they are. You think you’re being modest—and most of the time you really do feel that your accomplishment is not worthy of praise. But you’re selling yourself short. You’re telling whoever wants to compliment you (and the rest of the world with them) that you do not deserve praise, that you have not created or accomplished something worth noting. You are saying to the world, “No, I am NOT worthy of your praise or even your notice.”

I’ll stop now, because you’re giving me that look that says, “Well, I’m just being honest, and I’m really not that—”

Well (I can say well, too!), JUST STOP IT. Just stop and listen to yourself.

“I’ve only been dancing for about a year.”

“I’m not published yet.”

“Well, it’s not really that hard to make.”

“I haven’t done enough reading to make me an expert, but…”

“It’s sort of goofy-looking.”

“It’s just the pattern; I only knit it.”

You see what I’m getting at here, or shall I go on?

You’re not the only one to do this. Many of your friends do the same thing. It’s something we’re trained to do, I think, though I’m not sure when the indoctrination starts. As kids, we’re taught to say “please” and “thank you” and all the rest. But when are we taught to deny compliments all together? Was “thank you” not sufficient for expressing gratitude, and we decided we debase ourselves in acknowledgement of praise?

Trouble is, when you bow out of a compliment, you’re essentially saying that the giver has no taste. Think about it:

Person A: “Wow, you made that?! It’s gorgeous!”

You: “Well, you can see that some of the wires are loose, and I was really just following a pattern.” (Subtext: “You’re clearly blind, and anyway, this is something so commonplace, a monkey could make it.”)

Person A: “Whatever, think it’s nice.” (Subtext: “And here I thought it was pretty. See if I try to compliment you again!” Or, worse, “And here I thought it was pretty. I must have horrible taste! Now I question my entire belief system…”)

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but no one wins in this situation.

I can see you feel bad now, so let me give you a little advice. You won’t want to hear this, I know, but try to listen and accept what I’m saying without trying to dismiss it or wave it away with the rest of the nice things I tell you. So listen up:

You are talented. You are skilled. You are worthy of praise and deserving of notice. You work hard and earn the things that come to you. You are amazing, and you can say, “THANK YOU!”

Now you’re rolling your eyes and telling me that’s not advice. So here’s your mission:

Accept praise. Express gratitude for compliments. Stop trying to deny your own worthiness, skill, and creativity. Take responsibility for the good that you do, as well as the bad. The next time someone says something nice about you, smile, and say your thanks. You can do it—you’re a talented and gracious woman.

So, there, self. I hope you listen to me and take my advice. This is one of those instances where you’ll want apologize for something that’s not that bad and pretend none of this ever happened, but I know it’ll light a little fire somewhere inside you. Maybe the next time someone compliments you, you’ll think of this moment and offer thanks.

Maybe you’re saying thank you right now. Telling me I’m wise and you should listen to me more often.

And you know what I say to that? THANK YOU.

Sincerely,

Your self

Frazzled Friday

Ghost town blog. Photo by Sebastien Dooris

You may have noticed the echoing silence ’round these parts the past couple weeks. I’m not trying to excuse myself, but I thought you might enjoy knowing where the heck I’ve been.

1. Last week, I was revising my latest book, Oasis, so I could get it sent off to my awesome agent. Revisions are labor intensive and nerve-wracking, and, with my other commitments, akin to having a second full time job. Agent-sending also requires a synopsis and some other front-matter for the manuscript itself, so that’s still more work being done.

2. Next week is Lughnasadh, a neo-pagan High Day, and I’ve been preparing liturgy and devotionals for the Solitary Druid Fellowship, of which I’m now the organizer. This is another project and a half, and one that’s very important to me… and quite literally on a deadline.

3. Speaking of druidry, I’m also working through the pre-clergy training program for ADF—I’d really like to get my preliminary coursework done by the end of the year, and every class requires some significant research and essay-writing… and still more revisions! In addition to that, I’m coordinator of a subgroup of ADF and mentor to another student, so I have a few other ongoing responsibilities there, as well.

4. I’ve been acting as Game Master for the completely magical and fabulous Magetech troupe, and we’ve been putting our game sessions up LIVE on the Searching for Superwomen YouTube channel. (Link to our first play session, where you can see me giggling madly and acting sadistic.) Gaming is a hell of a lot of fun, but GM-ing is quite a bit of work.

5. Over on Spellbound Scribes, we’ve increased posting frequency, so that means more work and more fun there, as well. Have you seen our story in the round? You can see my piece of it here.

And all of those things are in addition to yoga, belly dance class, an upcoming festival, attempting to see my various friends at least once a month, reading fiction, cooking, cleaning, spending time with my husband, and trying to conquer the ever-increasing pile of laundry in the bedroom closet.

We’re all busy, I know. But sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the blogging. Hang in there, readers. I’ll be back.

Kristin’s 2012 Year in Review

You know how sometimes you have tons of fabulous blog posts planned for a given month, and then suddenly it’s the twenty-first and you have no idea where the time went?

Yeah, that’s why you haven’t seen me in awhile.

This has been a big year for me. So big, in fact, that I decided to spend what many thought was the final day of the world showing you just a few of my key moments from 2012.

7828753730_f88600fb6c1. I got married.

After seven-plus years, long-distance time spent in two different countries, four cross-country moves, good jobs, bad jobs, grief, joy, and everything in between that makes up daily life, Drew and I decided to tie the knot.

Being a bride is one of those fabulous things that takes month of prep (see number 2) and then rushes by in a mere hours, most of them spent in a daze caused by heat, a tight dress, and staying out waaaaaay too late the night before partying with your girlfriends.

It ends quickly, but then you’re left with a few gorgeous memories… like this one.

2. I planned a wedding.

Don’t laugh. Planning a wedding is tons of work, and you have to think of everything from the napkins all the way up to the venue, the music, and the dress. And all those tiny little details add up to wedding, and turn a beautiful day into a magical one.

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3. I made new friends, and got to spend time with old friends.

Most of my friends live in Texas. We met in high school and college, we lived together in Rome, we drank too much on our twenty-first birthdays together, and they held me in their arms after my brother died. They are part of my family.

However, as you grow up, you move apart. It’s hard to see each other that often, and you start to develop new interests. But if you’re lucky, you get to make new friends and add to that existing circle of family-friends.

I am very lucky.

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4. I lost a dear friend.

Furry friends count as family, too, and they never stay long enough. Baby stayed nearly twenty years, though, and was as good a friend as I ever had.

5. I finished Shaken.

Writing a first draft is the easy part. Reading the book 15 times and making changes for every reread is the hard part. Shaken went through three different endings and at least as many different full drafts. Most of the edits were while I was planning the wedding, and some of them were while I was already on submission. I deserve a medal… or possibly a straight jacket, as a reward for my insanity.

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This is my pity-party outfit.

6. I went on submission.

Querying is hard, yo. It’s really, really difficult. It takes hours of research for each agent, it takes weeks of revising a 300-word letter, and even more time to write synopses. And as a reward for all that work, you get rejections by the fistful.

If you’re lucky, you actually get some positive responses, and you get to submit your book for actual consideration. And after that, you get more rejection; the real, painful rejection that delves into why agents hated or just didn’t love your book.

After X-number of rejections (3-4 on actual submissions), Spouse and I instated the pity-party, which typically involved party hats, kazoos, and glowsticks. If you can’t celebrate rejection, what can you celebrate?

7. I got an agent.

The happy thing about rejections, though, is you can know that they’re usually from the people who aren’t right to represent your book. And the person who is right is still out there, waiting to hold your pages in their happy little hands.

The real work is just about to begin, but  I now have someone who loves my work to fight along with me. Further proof that I’m pretty darn lucky.

An Open Letter to Retail Customers

A seriously odd customer today got me thinking about how we all treat the people who wait on us in any service capacity.

Oh, let me back up: I work part-time in retail. I know that cashiering isn’t glamorous, it isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating, and I know it suggests high school students and, well, people with nothing else to do.

But let me tell you a few things. I have a Master’s degree in Journalism, and I’ve worked as a reporter. I’m actually a pretty good reporter. But I don’t like reporting. I don’t mind, however, working retail, and I choose to do so to supplement my household income. I can perform quick arithmetic in my head, I’m scrupulously honest (see above about not enjoying newspaper reporting), and I actually enjoy working in the gorgeous fast-paced setting that is retail sales.

Plus, I work in a semi-New Age store. I meet interesting people, and I get to look at pretty things. I’m a magpie of both shiny things and shiny ideas, so I do get some pleasure out of my work, when it’s going well.

The bad days are very bad, though, and that’s largely because a portion of the population does not appreciate that I’m a human being, not a talking cash register.

So I’d like to ask the internet to remember a few things about the people who wait on you.

1. I am not a child. Don’t accuse me of breaking things or of not keeping my room clean enough. I work hard at this, and I frequently work completely alone. It can be hard to keep up with your demands, but I’m not completely incapable. Just give me a minute to do my job.

2. I don’t want to be hit on. C’mon, guys. I’m a married woman. Plus, I’m not getting paid to flirt. I smile and ask you about your day because it’s polite for me to do so.

3. I don’t like it when salespeople stalk me, either. But sometimes companies expect their employees to do just that. Be understanding. Don’t shoo me like a stray puppy. I’m just doing my job.

4. I’m a pretty smart gal. Don’t assume that because someone is wearing a name-tag, they’re not an educated, intelligent person. Just don’t. You never know someone else’s story.

5. I have feelings, too. I know you’re in a hurry: I am, too. But when my equipment has a fault, or when there’s a long line, I can only do what I can do. Believe me, I’m trying to go as fast as I can. And if I can’t answer your question, don’t yell at me. Don’t take your bad day out on me. Maybe I’m having a bad day, too.

And finally, my gigantic pet-peeve:

Don’t talk on your cellphone when you should be interacting with me. I know that I’m just a function to you, a check-out machine at the front of the store, but I’m not a computer. I have to tell you your total, make sure you found what you needed, ask if you want a receipt, a box, a bag, any number of things. And I can’t do that if you’re not listening. You’re preventing me from doing my job well.

Plus, it’s just rude.

I’m begging you, internet. The next time someone in retail, in service, or on the phone asks you a question or takes a long time, remember that they’re a person. They’re doing a job, but they are not that job. Be nice.

It’s a Green Thumb After All

Remember how I said that I can’t ever really succeed with gardening?

Well, it turns out I lied.

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Here we have my the chives I recently mowed down, some chamomile, my potted lilac bush, a baby pepper plant, the basil, a tea-rose, lavender, and a LOT of mint.

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The seed-pots contain borage, more chamomile, hollyhocks, poppies, some sort of climbing plant, and something else I’ve forgotten. You can catch a glimpse of the big pepper plant on the right.

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This bottom photo is mostly of my tomato plant, which is HUGE. It’s tied to the stake with purple yarn, but still threatening to tomato-bomb anyone on the sidewalk below. Next to it is a teacup tomato plant (complete with gnome) that’s still a baby. (The tarp covered monstrosity is my bike.)

I’m completely infatuated with my little garden. I’d work and read out there, but a) it’s greenhouse-hot, and b) we live near the highway so it’s never really quiet. I do have a couple of houseplants by my desk, though.

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Yes, that is a fairy garden in my jade plant pot.

So, the moral, dear readers, is never think you can’t do something.

How are your gardens doing?